Friday, September 09, 2005

Getting serious in Florida

September 7, 2005
Tampa, Florida
11:15 a.m.

I write. This is what I would tell people.

I am trying to be a writer. I am trying to be a good writer and I write what I see and what I think.

I will tell them about my country. I will tell them that my country is poor because many of our leaders are corrupt. Many of our leaders are not there to serve the people. I will tell them that there’s a revolution in my country. I will tell them that we are free and we are not free.

I will tell American professors and students at the South Florida University that Filipinos are educated although love for learning has been declining in recent years. I will tell them that we want food and work and because we are poor and hungry many of our children just don’t want to study. I will tell them that more and more of our middle class just want to have power and money.

Journalists are not supposed to write what they believe in. We are supposed to be chroniclers of history and our stories the ingredients of history. But we cannot just close our eyes to what’s happening around us.

After hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, American journalists cry in front of the cameras. They cry on the air. They lament about what happened, about the failure of their government to help the people. They write about what they feel after seeing bloated bodies on the streets of their beautiful city. They cry because they realize that there are many poor people behind the fa├žade of affluence.

Journalism is changing. Journalism must have a heart. Journalists must be fair and objective. But journalists must also come to terms with their own humanity and not just become robots churning out stories after stories. Journalists must not become story machines.

The American people are wondering why their government failed to immediately help the victims of Katrina. Why the delay in bringing aid to the victims? It took the US government more than two days to go to New Orleans and help people. Journalists were on the scene as it happened. Why was the government not there?

It’s just like in the Philippines. Journalists know how to find rebels. They know where to look for victims of calamities. They know where the things that matter are. The government does not.

I’m going back to St. Petersburg today. I will visit the offices of The St. Petersburg Times and learn how they do journalism. The Times is owned by Poynter Institute and is supposed to be the country’s most independent newspaper. There must be a lot that Filipino journalists can learn from them.

I will also meet with journalism professors and students at South Florida University. They will ask questions. I will talk to them. We will learn from each other. I will do my best to learn from them.

What will I tell them? I will tell them about myself. I will talk about how hard it is to survive as a journalist in my country. I will talk to them about my country. I will tell them our situation. I will talk about myself and hope that they will understand the story of my country and my people.

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